The prediction for this morning was light winds and small waves. We set an alarm for 5:45 in anticipation of a dawn departure. In fact there was no wind and we could see no waves. Excellent. Except they don’t call Ludington The Foggy City for nothing. We could see nothing but fog. Fog as far as the eye could see, which was about fifty feet.
One definitive sign of danger is when a ship the size of a city block is invisible. Remember the Badger? Here’s the Badger coming in on our first day in town (which seemingly was a year ago).
Pretty easy to see, which means pretty easy to avoid. Now here’s the Badger executing the same clockwise spin this morning, from the same distance.
No navigation lights visible. No deck lights visible. The two stern lights are all one can see from just a hundred-stinking-yards away. And if we see the Badger’s stern lights from our boat, it means we’ve already been smushed like we smush the spiders on our deck.
So no way we go, right? Even though the weather’s bad the next few days, better to buy a house in Ludington than get smushed like a spider, right? Maybe our judgment was clouded by Shannon heading back to college, or maybe the fact that everyone else took off gave us false bravado. Regardless, at the first sign of clearing we fired up the radar, turned on every light Misty Pearl could offer, tested the horn, and released the lines. Surely it’ll all burn off or blow away soon, right?
As soon as we turned the corner, things progressively worsened. FOR THE NEXT SEVEN HOURS. We couldn’t see that lighthouse we visited on the north breakwater—which we note with some irony was built entirely as an aid to navigation—until we were seconds from ramming it. Thank God for radar. Very quickly, however, we started feeling like every moving blip either was the Lusitania or a Somali pirate skiff. All we could see with our eyes was a wall. FOR SEVEN STINKING HOURS.
Of course, even when the flybridge was dripping in our faces we had to eat. So a moment to thank Chris and Jan, Ludington locals Shannon and Doug met while cruising the Hobies. Last night they stopped by with a huge slab from a salmon they caught moments earlier. (More impressive than their generosity to us is their dedication to disaster relief. Check out their organization Poured Out.) We fired up the grill and ate delicious salmon for lunch even though we barely could see where to stick the forks.
Basically we rode the radar, AIS, and fog horn FOR SEVEN STINKING HOURS. (One of us wanted to use this opportunity to work in a classic quote from that crotchety old rooster Foghorn Leghorn. Dana said the reference was waaaaay too obtuse even for a blog that often veers to the obtuse anyway.) The COLREGS require at least one long blast every two minutes. We did one long blast about every ten seconds, particularly when we could see radar blips quickly approaching. As we neared Muskegon we heard responsive horns in what Dana observed was like a scary game of Marco Polo, although the object of the game was the exact opposite of finding each other.
The Lake Express ferry whizzed by at 31 knots about 75 yards off our bow on its way into Muskegon. Never saw it. The captain was all over the radio asking for Coast Guard assistance to get small boats out of the way in the channel. We tucked in behind the radar blip that was Change of Pace and still couldn’t see a thing. The Muskegon Lighthouse—effectively useless because it lacked a light and a fog horn—nearly was invisible from a hundred feet.
The bright part of the day literally was the bright part of the day. Things cleared a bit in the channel, although commercial ships—technically known as BABs (Big Ass Boats)—still appeared out of nowhere.
(Insert video of Mallory singing the Lefty Frizzell classic, “Saginaw, Michigan.”)
We finally tied up, feeling like we’d been in a bar fight. Shannon made it to Eckerd safely. Mallory’s safe at Georgetown. Life is good after all.
*Blomo apparently is holding on to significant bitterness over the weather delay he experienced during his last visit.